Consumers rely on social media sites for almost everything: connecting with brands and other like-minded peers, looking for promo codes, reaching a company's customer service, finding product and company reviews, and all sorts of other things that can help them make a purchasing decision. While the power of social media is immense, the problem for many marketers is how to combine their email marketing and social media strategies beyond asking for a “Like” or “follow.” Brands are recognizing they can drive higher customer engagement and a better user experience with cross-channel promotion. Let’s look at how you can incorporate social into your email program to drive engagement and strengthen customer loyalty.

Request User-Generated Content (UGC)

Finding ways to curate and integrate UGC into emails is probably the hottest social trend in email right now. Encourage customers to post selfies with your products, and then use those images in future emails. Just be sure to have the usage rights. If you don’t have them, just ask. Many customers are honored to have their UGC used for brand awareness. Here are two great examples from Adore Me and Foot Locker. These emails explicitly ask contacts to engage with them by taking selfies and let them know their UGC may be used in future messages. They do a nice job of tying it all together by including images of past submissions. gregz_1_comboFor more of an everyday callout, here’s an example from the bottom of a Dancewear Solutions email. It encourages subscribers to share a photo that the company can then use on its website or in future emails with that customer’s approval. A banner callout like this can be a great secondary reinforcement for the campaign in your standard promotional emails. Dancewear Solutions

In addition to asking for selfies and UGC curation, consider including a social feed as secondary content in your emails if you have that capability. It works especially well for image-based sites, such as Instagram.

Give Social Selling a Chance

You might focus on one “social product” per week or day that has a special price. You can choose one user-generated product photo as the main hero image and give credit to the user. Or you might consider testing an email that features multiple products, maybe a clearance email. Run an A/B test using social or UGC photos in the email versus the standard stock product images. In both cases, analyze how these social selling messages convert compared with your static promotional message sends. In this email, the Container Store went with UGC examples from products purchased in the hopes of inspiring subscribers to make a purchase and do the same. Container StoreInstead of including social as your primary promotion, you can also enhance a promotional message with UGC as a kind of testimonial for the email’s featured product. In this example, Chick-fil-A uses tweets as testimonials for their spicy chicken sandwich.


Consider a Contest

Contests are a great way to integrate social in an email campaign. One example would be a social media scavenger hunt with clues hidden across your social channels. With this type of contest, you’ll want to include email as a part of the campaign, with one of the clues coming from this channel. It can be an effective way to promote your email sign-up via your social sites, as you can advertise the contest in advance on those channels in an effort to gain additional subscribers. In these examples from Adore Me and Klean Kanteen, both brands do a good job of driving their email subscribers to their social channels. adore me halloween email

Ask Questions & Start Conversations

After all, it is social media. Does your email include a special topic that connects with people emotionally or includes some kind of unique offer? If so, encourage subscribers to share their response to it with your audiences. You can even ask them to share using a special hashtag and provide a fill-in-the-blank comment. For example: This 50% discount from @TwitterHandle makes me feel _____. #SavingsDay Here is a great example by Maggie Sottero. Weddings, of course, are very emotional events, and they did a great job of having their past customers relive the moment. This not only helps them connect with past customers but also helps engage future customers. Maggie SotteroAnother great way to regularly engage users with your emails is to offer a question of the day or week and post answers from subscribers on your social site(s). Be sure to tailor your campaign to your particular social channel. For Instagram, allow pictures to serve as answers.. In this example from an email, the concept of engagement was there, but I would have included a hashtag rather than forcing people to click through the banner.


From Social to Email

Always be listening. Look at popular social posts on your social sites and turn them into emails. These are messages that clearly resonate well with your target audience. See if you can use this data to your benefit.

Optimize Your Social Strategy

Before you invest too much time in mapping out strategies for using social in fun new ways, be sure you’re following some key best practices.
  1. Always include links to your social sites in your emails. These are typically placed in the footer area. Don’t try to be everywhere. Focus on the social sites your customers use. Otherwise, the return from your time spent will be minimal.
  2. Really speak to your audience and engage your followers. Start a conversation with them. Proactively comment on their posts/pictures, and thank the user when they share a selfie or comment with you. Don’t just respond when they need something. But be sure to respond in a timely manner when they do.
Continue to find new ways to connect with your audience and integrate social into your email program. There’s so much more out there beyond the traditional “Like us” email. While not every solution is right for your brand, identify those that are and give them a shot. Oh, and before I forget, be sure to follow me on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.